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Tennessee's SNAP Recertification Issues: How TJC Helped

Updated: Apr 8

Tennessee’s Department of Human Services has been battling a severe SNAP application and recertification backlog since June of 2023, resulting in tens of thousands of SNAP recipients being dropped from the program. While the agency states that they are working diligently to get application and recertification processing time under the 30-day limit allowable by law, at the height of the backlog, over 50,000 applications were past this limit. This, coupled with system overhauls, processing errors, and phone issues has caused thousands of Tennessee households to lose the SNAP benefits they are entitled to.

In December of 2023, Karen Moss, a grandmother caring for 3 grandchildren in Montgomery County, TN was due to recertify her SNAP case so that she would continue to have benefits to feed her family. She had a phone appointment on December 6, and expected a caseworker from DHS to call her, but they never did. She tried to call DHS and was on hold for four hours. When she reached a DHS caseworker, they told her that she "missed" her appointment and that someone would contact her with a new time. She never received a call. The next day, she called again and waited hours on the phone and a DHS worker informed her again that she missed her SNAP interview.

Karen decided to go to the Montgomery County DHS to handle this issue in person. She waited four hours, only to be told by the DHS worker that "someone will call you.” This continued for three months, from December 2023 until February 2024. Karen called the DHS Family Assistance Line 15 times and visited the office a total of 8 times and could not get help addressing a straightforward recertification. Meanwhile, she and her family went without the benefits needed to feed themselves.

Karen has custody of two of her grandchildren, and last year she also gained custody of a third grandchild who needs specialist care, which Karen had to pay for out of pocket. Seeking help, Karen reached out to TJC for help with her TennCare case. Gaining custody of her third grandchild caused issues with her case, and TJC was able to help her navigate the system and get her family coverage.

Tennessee Justice Center was able to help Ms. Moss get her SNAP benefits back and assisted with TennCare. Because of TJC, she and her family live free from the worry associated with hunger and lack of healthcare. Within two weeks of TJC intervening, Karen was contacted by DHS, who reinstated her benefits. TJC also worked with partners to get Karen's TANF ("Families First") benefits reinstated, which had also lapsed due to DHS error.

According to Karen, "I would never have gotten everything straightened out without TJC!". She says that access to these benefits helps her pay her rent, feed her family, and live a life worth living. According to her, "The Tennessee Justice Center rocks!"

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